The Shopping Avenger

Wiener Whining at Super 8

Shopping Avenger, that notorious lover of phallic puppies, fights for your right to lodge (at no extra cost) with your pets.

It is a well-known fact that the Shopping Avenger keeps a special place in his heart for the downtrodden and the outcast, including, but not limited to, the poor, the indigent, the day traders, and the blind. When the Shopping Avenger sees the forces of rampant capitalism manhandling an unfortunate soul, he will fly to the rescue straightaway, unless he’s busy leading anarchists into battle on the streets of Seattle, or napping.

But there is one group whose persecution will instantaneously get the Shopping Avenger into superhero mode, and that is: wiener dogs.

The Shopping Avenger loves wiener dogs. The Shopping Avenger loves all animals, but he especially loves animals that have no discernible legs.

So {{Today In Slate#19756}} when Ms. Gale Hogsten of South Carolina wrote to complain that the Super 8 motel chain abused her wiener dog, along with the rest of her family, the Shopping Avenger donned his codpiece and cape and superhero tights–though not necessarily in that order–and launched himself into battle. Super 8 is a major motel chain–it is two better than Motel 6–but the Shopping Avenger showed no fear.

But first, the Shopping Avenger will let Gale Hogsten tell the story.

“As Hurricane Floyd was coming our way, I booked a room near Atlanta, so we could get the heck out of here,” the aggrieved Ms. Hogsten writes. “What Super 8 did was to call Hurricane Floyd a ‘special event,’ hence they were able to charge any damn price they wanted to. Our family got the regular rate of $48 the first night, however others in the hotel started getting ripped off, being charged $75 the second night and up to $125 the third night. Nothing like the feeling of being homeless and being screwed in the process.” The Shopping Avenger endorses the previous statement wholeheartedly.

“Like most people, I was traveling with a pet and when I read about this particular Super 8, it did say (still does) that small animals are allowed. We have a wiener dog, a corgi, and a cat. Somehow the idiot at the desk heard we had animals and decided to charge us an extra 10 bucks. What are you going to do, not pay?”

Not pay, indeed.

“Plus,” Hogsten writes, “they never gave us any maid service for three days.”

The Shopping Avenger made contact with Hogsten via e-mail and learned that her wiener dog, whose name is Rusty, was traumatized by these events, though not as much as Hogsten was traumatized by these events. “What pissed me off personally was charging 10 bucks for the wiener dog,” she stated, emphatically.

The Shopping Avenger right away made contact with the Super 8 executive offices. Super 8, it turns out, is owned by the Cendant Corp., which owns every hotel and motel room in America and is therefore the sort of unfeeling monopoly that would rob people fleeing a hurricane. Except that the executive who was assigned the difficult task of dealing with the Shopping Avenger, one Jennifer Nemeth, did a provisionally satisfactory job of making the Shopping Avenger happy.

“I hear you,” she said by way of introduction. “We heard that some of our franchises were doing this sort of thing, and we get angry when we hear about them doing it.” Nemeth maintained that Super 8 does not discriminate against short-legged dogs. “We get a lot of letters saying, ‘Thanks for letting us bring Fluffy,’ that sort of thing.”

Fluffy? Who ever heard of a wiener dog named Fluffy? But that’s not the point.

Nemeth promised to investigate the motel in question. She promised to apologize, on behalf of Super 8, to Rusty the wiener dog, and she promised free nights at a Super 8 of Hogsten’s choice. Wait till next episode to learn if Super 8 keeps its promises.

Now let {{Illo 2#57592}} us contrast the open attitude of Super 8 with that of, oh, U-Haul, the Shopping Avenger’s bête noire. The Shopping Avenger is quite positive that, as long as he is reachable via e-mail at, each month will bring him 10 or 20 or 30 complaints about U-Haul. (Little-known fact: “U-Haul,” spelled backward in Aramaic, is “Ponzi.”)

The Shopping Avenger’s new favorite U-Haul story comes from one William Brangham, who states: “I’ve resisted writing because you no doubt have received thousands of complaints about this company and I thought, ‘Why pile on?’ But after reading the other complaints you’ve received about U-Haul, I think it’s fair to say that I’ve got the topper–U-Haul almost killed me.”

Do tell, Mr. Brangham.

“My girlfriend was moving from New York to Vermont. When we picked the truck up (they did honor the reservation) a man brought the vehicle out, parked it out front, and then reached behind the front seat and brought out a bottle of fluid. He opened the hood, poured some of it somewhere in the engine, closed the hood, put the bottle back, and handed me the keys. I asked him what he’d done, and he said, ‘Oh, just topping up some stuff.’”

If you’re thinking “Yikes,” you’re right.

Brangham continues: “My girlfriend was in the driver’s seat and she literally couldn’t move the wheel six inches in either direction. I got in there and could do little more. … Then we realized the fluid that had been topped off was power steering fluid. There was a pool of it gathering on the street. I went behind the seat to find five empty bottles of fluid, plus one with about half a cup left. It sure seemed like U-Haul knowingly rented me a faulty truck.”

But it gets worse. Brangham called U-Haul “customer service,” which, in the Shopping Avenger’s estimation, is probably a guy named Joe in a phone booth. After waiting a considerable period of time, a U-Haul mechanic showed up, taped up a leaky hose, and left. “It’s dark, but we still have one stop across the river in Hoboken. … I’m driving the truck. In the middle of the Holland Tunnel, doing about 30 mph, the steering wheel drastically stiffens. It’s now so hard to steer this huge truck that I have to put my foot up on the dash or on the door to tug the wheel in the direction I need it to go. I’m 6’3” and 195 lbs. and it took every ounce of strength I had to stop from smashing into oncoming traffic in the tunnel. If my five-foot-something, 115-lbs. girlfriend had been driving, there’s absolutely no way she could have controlled the truck.”

Horrible, yes? It gets still worse. “I bought power steering fluid like it was cheap beer, topped off, and away we went.” He topped off every few miles. The next day, they drove the truck to a U-Haul center. “Upon arrival, they keep us waiting for an hour and a half because ‘the mechanic’s not in yet like we told him.’ When he finally arrives, he proceeds to tell us incessant stories about how drunk he got the night before and how his hangover is killing him.”

The mechanic eventually inspected the truck. “You’ve got a busted hose,” he told them. Mr. Brangham writes: “The first U-Haul mechanic had patched the hole on the hose with electrical tape. Apparently, this is a very foolish thing to do. … Even in his groggy state, [the second mechanic] couldn’t believe a fellow mechanic would pull such a stunt.”

Suffice it to say that Mr. Brangham and his girlfriend made it to Vermont and asked for a refund because U-Haul nearly killed them. But, he reports, U-Haul didn’t even offer an apology.

Any of you loyal deputy Avengers out there have a U-Haul story that can top this one? You know {{where to}}.

In the previous episode, the Shopping Avenger promised to explain to the reader why Southwest Airlines is the Shopping Avenger’s favorite company, and now the Shopping Avenger will keep his promise:

1) Very tasty peanuts.

2) Southwest tries, at least most of the time, to keep its customers happy. This is in marked contrast to every other airline ever flown by Shopping Avenger, but particularly Northwest Airlines, for which Shopping Avenger has very hard feelings at the moment, for reasons that will be explained in the next episode.

Southwest does have its drawbacks. The Shopping Avenger, when he was just a boy Avenger, worked one summer at a Bob’s Big Boy. The Shopping Avenger learned very quickly that Bob’s Big Boy is a restaurant for people who don’t know how to eat in restaurants. The same holds true for Southwest: It is an airline for people who don’t know proper airline etiquette. On his last Southwest flight, from Baltimore to Phoenix, the seat next to the Shopping Avenger was filled by a gentleman whose first words were, “Bring on the $2 Heinekens.”

The Shopping Avenger had a very long flight.

But this, of course, is not Southwest’s fault, except insofar as Southwest makes its seats so cheap that even drunken assholes can fly across this great country of ours.

Recently, the Shopping Avenger went to bat for one of his loyal readers, a certain Miss M., who had an actual, valid complaint about Southwest. M.’s luggage, {{you’ll recall#32221}}, was left sitting for an hour in the rain–on the tarmac. When she got to her destination, she discovered that her clothing was ruined. She got very little satisfaction when she approached Southwest through the normal channels, so she turned to the Shopping Avenger for justice.

After some initial backing-and-forthing, in which Southwest made noises that sounded very much like the noises made by such airlines as Northwest when they do something wrong, Southwest came around and offered M. two $400 travel vouchers. M. considered this a satisfactory resolution, and thus so did the Shopping Avenger, who is nothing if not loyal to the wishes of his readers. Southwest knows how to make people happy, which is very unusual in American business today.

Next month: Why U-Haul is a key part of Satan’s plan for world domination.

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